Mari Wilson – Live Music Review

THE skyscraper of a beehive hairdo may have been disassembled, but Mari Wilson still lives up to her label as the Neasden Queen of Soul.

If you need cheering up, and an excuse to get your feet tapping for a couple of hours, Wilson will be right up your street. Soul music still courses through her veins – and will do for years to come. She’s ageless. Preserved in proverbial aspic.

Forty long years have passed since Wilson and The Wilsations crashed onto the music scene with a number of big hits such as Just What I’ve Always Wanted and Cry Me A River.

Yet apart from a more subdued hair style and The Wilsations being replaced by a less extravagant (but equally brilliant) band, little has changed. Wilson can still belt out a tune or four – and send audiences homes smiling, with a big spring in their step. She’s a gloom buster. A breath of fresh air in a country screaming out for it.

On Thursday night (March 16), while London was subdued by yet more train strikes, Wilson came to Pizza Express Live in the City’s Holborn and delivered a string of hits and covers from her extensive back book. A full house attested to her drawing power, consuming their glasses of Prosecco and chomping away at their Leggera pizza.

With her vocal delivery as crisp and sharp as her outfits (the glittering gold trouser suit was a revelation), Wilson conquered. The marvellous backing vocals from the hugely talented Lucy Potterton – together with a super band overseen by the passionate and demonstrative Richard Cottle – added to the musical experience.

Drawing heavily from her 2016 ‘Pop Deluxe’ album, Wilson belted out a number of familiar songs for those who were in their heyday during the 1960s and 1970s – the opening You’re My World and Anyone Who had A Heart (both number one hits for Cilla Black).There was also a delicious rendition of Sandie Shaw’s 1964 number one hit (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me, written by Burt Bacharach – and White Horses, the theme song to a TV series of the same name that was first shown in the UK in the late 1960s.Other standouts were in plentiful supply, including Carole Bayer Sager’s A Groovy Kind of Love (made famous by Phil Collins) and Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps. Don’t Sleep In The Subway triggered a Pizza Express Live sing-along: an unusual event given the normally conservative nature of the audience and the fact they are still usually stuffing their faces with sumptuous Pizza.

The best was saved to last with Wilson treating the audience to her two big hits, Cry Me A River (originally written for Ella Fitzgerald in 1953, but sung two years later by Julie London) and Just What I’ve Always Wanted.

All wonderfully dramatic, all wonderfully theatrical as Richard Cottle prompted the band to new heights (brother Laurence was on bass, Tim Goodyer on drums and Mark Cox on guitar).A night that brought much cheer to those unsure about how they were going to get home. We should be glad of the fact that Mari Wilson still sparkles. More champagne than Prosecco.

https://www.pizzaexpresslive.com/venues/pizzaexpress-live-holborn www.mariwilson.co.uk

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